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I keep forgetting to faux brag about kickball. You see, I still play the game with some former colleagues (adult kickball happens in a lot of communities, apparently), and we’re 2-0. Last game, I “batted” leadoff, went 3 for 3, scoring two runs and driving in another. That’s what you want in a leadoff hitter. Eat your heart out, David DeJesus.

  • Alfonso Soriano, who remains homerless and is hitting just .250/.283/.304, has dropped down a bat size. Manager Dale Sveum, who joked that Soriano was swinging a “big ol’ log,” finally convinced Soriano to at least take an ounce off his bat, which is a start. Good news, right? Well, he made the switch two weeks ago, and he’s hitting an improved (but still yawn-inducing) .275/.341/.400 over that stretch. The coaching staff would like to see Soriano’s bat shrink even more.
  • The decision to pull Jeff Samardzija after five innings yesterday wasn’t a particularly tough one for Dale Sveum. “He was at his 90 pitches,” Sveum said. “He pitched well numbers-wise, but the ball was up. You could tell it wasn’t coming out of his hand like it can. Time to pinch hit, time to take a shot. The bullpen was rested.” Fine with me. The Cubs have to continue to be careful with Samardzija, as he adjusts to starting. And he, too, will have to continue to adjust – he could have been a bit more economical with his pitches yesterday, and might have been able to squeeze out another inning in those 90 pitches.
  • Reliever Shawn Camp, whom the Cubs picked up for nothing at the end of Spring Training, has been a pleasant surprise in the bullpen. And he says he could be even better with more use. “I’m a sinkerball pitcher and I’m not like a power pitcher,” Camp said. “I don’t want to say my arm never gets tired. But I feel sometimes, when you’re a sinkerball pitcher, the more tired and fatigued you get, the less effort you put into pitches and your sinker gets a little better at times.” Given that Camp has a 3.50 ERA in his 18 innings of work, more use is fine with me.
  • Rick Telander offers a nice write-up on the uniqueness of Wrigley Field and Wrigleyville, and what needs to happen going forward.
  • The Cubs have high hopes for Matt Szczur, but John Sickels notes that the center field prospect’s performance at High A between last year and this year isn’t going to cut it.
  • The MLBullets at BCB feature a discussion of Nationals catcher Wilson Ramos’s season-ending ACL injury. I know where everyone’s head goes immediately: can the Cubs trade them Geovany Soto? Maybe. I always feel a bit icky immediately going to trade possibilities when a young guy suffers a serious injury (especially after an offseason in which the kid was kidnapped). But, on the substance, I’m not sure what the Nats would think. A lot of Soto’s value comes from the fact that he’s under contract through next season, which might not be of all that much value to the Nats, who likely believe Ramos will be back (though, how healthy and effective?). The Nats are also calling up their best catching prospect, a 23-year-old named Sandy Leon, to help shoulder the load now. It’s possible that they’d like to give him a chance to shine.
  • Cubs Dude

    Why in thell does Soriano insist on swinging such a heavy bat? I feel like this has been talked about for years. What do you have lose Sori?? Really..

    • Brian Myers

      Hitting a ball is about the transfer of energy. A larger bat can provide “X” amount percentage of more energy transfer. That being stated, a faster bat is even more efficient at it. BUT, the faster you swing a bat the harder it is to time it just right in order to hit the ball at the optimum location. So the perfect bat for an individual would be a bat that allows you to swing as fast as you can while still having perfect control over the swing. This “control” can be added by adjusting the weight of the bat. If that speed/eye contact ratio happens to come with a heavier (mass) bat then its likely you’ll hit the ball ever so slightly further, thus increasing your power.

      Soriano used to have that ratio with a heavier bat. Now that he’s older, the same sized bat that treated him well in his youth no longer is as effective for him, so he needs to lighten it up.

      In short, old habits die hard and admitting your limitations due to age sometimes is even harder… and Sori needs to adjust to both.

      • DocPWimsey

        Actually, it’s a little different: it’s transfer of momentum, which is mass x velocity. So, given two bats of the same weight and tensile properties, the faster bat transfers more momentum. However, a heavier bat swung slower can transfer the same momentum, and a lighter bat must be swung harder to achieve the same transfer.

        The other trick here is that we are dealing with angular momentum. The quickness of the swing is how quickly it gets through the strike zone: but you can increase quickness with the same bat by choking up and shortening the swing. The “sweet spot” of the bat now is traveling more slowly when getting through the strike zone than is a “long swing” bat that gets through the strike zone at the same rate. (The “radius” of the swing is the distance here, and thus the velocity is the radius/time.)

        Both are important: increasing quickness means that guys get a fraction of a second longer to identify where the pitch will be. That’s nothing for you and me, but it’s the world to them. However, increasing velocity increases the power of the stroke: and that means more slugging.  So, if Sori goes to a lighter bat, then he’ll lose power. Now, whether that buys him the crucial millisecond to distinguish between a low-and-away slider and a fastball, I do not know: if it does, then it is worth it; if it does not, then it is not.

        Incidentally, this is both why players believe that corked bats make the ball travel and why every test demonstrates that it does the opposite. Lessening the weight increases the quickness of the swing and thus allows for more solid contact. The players respond to that. (As we all know from watching the game, players are absolute crap at telling how far they hit the ball!) Lessening the weight decreases the angular momentum and thus decreases how far the ball goes. Mr. Newton responds to that. (And he’s quite good….)

        • Rick Vaughn

          Nerd Alert!!

          Good stuff.

        • ty

          Doc: Mr Newton lives next door to me and he had better fence in his dog.

          • DocPeterWimsey

            Mr. Newton says: “I’ll thrash you for a cur, sir!”

      • hansman1982

        Think of it this way. Would you rather get hit in the head by a baseball at 70 MPH or a wadded up piece of paper at 100 MPH?

  • oswego chris

    a few years ago we toured the Louisville Slugger factory and museum in Louisville…they had many of the different player models and Sorianos was one of them….big heavy 35 inch bat….Tony Gwynn used a 32…

    I really don’t think it matters though…Soriano could use an aluminum or a wood version of one of the big fat whiffle bats we used to have when I was a kid and he would still whiff and hit .270….

    • AK

      Oswego, NY?

    • rcleven

      Have to agree.sadly. Pitchers have the book on Al. Low slider away in the dirt. He is a sucker for that pitch.Always has always will be.

  • CubFan Paul

    I think Cardenas could hit .275/.341/.400 playing 2B everyday

    • hardtop

      why?

      • CubFan Paul

        Cardenas has an offensive background. An offensively orientated .700plus OPS player is better than Barney & his ‘great’ defense.

        • hardtop

          4 years at AAA level:

          .292/.352/.400

          So you’re saying you think his BA will drop slightly, but that he will get on base and slug at the same clip in the Majors?  So, even though he’ll hit less, when he does, it will be for more power?

          We know you don’t like Barney, Paul, but that’s absurd.  So I’m asking…. Why? Why do you think that?  You must have some additional information unbeknownst to the rest of us.

          I wasn’t asking why you thought he should replace barney, i was asking you you though that would be his slash line in the bigs.

          • CubFan Paul

            1) .275/.341/.400 is Soriano’s numbers from the past two weeks

            2) Cardenas Slugged over .400 in 127 AAA games last year

            3) He Slugged .521 before his call up this year (26games)

            4) 58 walks over that same time span

            5) and he batted .314/.374/.418, a .792 OPS, in his 127 2011 AAA at bats

            the kid has shown steady improvent at every level, .275/.341/.400 is actually regression from his most recent work (this season, spring training & 2011 AAA) not “absurd” but maybe if your going back for a four year comparison when he was 20-21yrs old

            • hardtop

              ok, goods points. ill give you that its not absurd.  i still believe that projecting based on minor league statistics is risky, and, all to often, a let down.  I was really just trying to point out the dangers of the “grass is always greener” mentality.  lets hope you’re right…. a .700 ops on this team would really make a difference (assuming he doesnt commit an error in every game)

        • hansman1982

          with a groundball orientated pitching staff a good defensive MI is worth more than in years past. It is all about runs. If Barney costs a run per game more than Cardenas through the bat, but saves that run in the field, then they are the same player (and I would go with Barney with a groundball heavy pitching staff).

  • Adam1680

    It doesn’t matter how heavy his bat is. Everyone in MLB knows if you bounce it up to the plate in the left handed batters box he’ll swing at it every time.

    • MaxM1908

      Actually, has anyone noticed that he appears to lay off those pitches more than last year? I’m not saying he still doesn’t get caught swinging at a slider low and away, but he definitely appears to have a better eye for those pitches than last year.

      • hardtop

        yep, he’s a different man.  swings at less garbage and can barely make it out of the infield.  weird!

  • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

    What Sickels chooses not to mention is that Szczur was dead tired when he got to Daytona last year (remember, he had been playing college football that year), but that he still dominated the playoffs and was a key member to Daytona’s run to a 2011 FSL Title.  He got off to a slow start this season, but if you check his 10-game numbers and his monthly splits, it looks like he’s already made the adjustments and is doing fine.  He’s not hitting .360+ like he did in the playoffs, but .280+ is pretty good in the pitching friendly FSL.  I still expect Szczur to be sent to Tennessee sometime this summer.

  • mark

    Re Szczur, his SLG may not tell the complete story. He has zero HRs, but his number of extra base hits (9 2B, 2 3B) per total number of hits (3) compares very favorably with other Daytona players with significantly higher SLG–but who have hit some HRs. He wouldn’t be the first young player who took a while to develop a HR swing. I’d be more concerned to see him pull his BA above .300 at this point. The idea that Sickles has that a doubles hitting CF who plays great defense and has top flight speed and SB ability would be a disappointment for the Cubs is a bit silly. Is Campana a disappointment so far?

  • hansman1982

    For the past couple of years I have been completely against Soriano moving to a lighter bat, but now that it seems like “pulling” the ball is hitting it to CF, he needs to keep walking his way down to a high 20′s oz bat. I certainly do not expect him to be able to shed 5-6 oz overnight and not have his alter his swing but if he can do it over the next 30 days we may see a home run or two.

    With that said, my confidence in him not being on the opening day 2013 roster grows every day.

    • CubFan Paul

      I think Soriano will be released (or traded) after January 1st 2013, so that his remaining $36M is on next year’s budget (so no trade or release this year unless the Cubs save significant $$ in a deal)

      With all the money spent on international free agents, the Draft, Big Z’s ($15.3M), & Pena (pillowed $5M) it’ll be easier to hide Soriano’s $36M next year when Dempster and Byrd are off the books as well

      • hansman1982

        unless they have the $36M to spend come December. Some of that will be dictated by Hamels and the Cubs FA spending plans. I think if they are planning on being agressive, you will see him dumped early in the offseason. If they think their FA targets are wanting obscene contracts (Hamels $25-30M per) then they may go with your scenario.

  • http://Ehanauer.com Clark Addison

    Nice article by the usually snarky Telander. I don’t read the Sun Times any more due to their pay wall, so thanks for posting the link.

  • Myles

    Today in whoa:

    In projected wins, Texas leads the AL. It is followed by all 5 teams in the AL East.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Whoa! (Seriously.)

  • Spencer

    I still think Soriano needs to be DL’ed. He is not healthy. His knee/leg is clearly bothering him, whether it’s from age or from getting hit the other day. It’s starting to impact his fielding (which has been miles above what it was last year), and undoubtedly has had an impact on his power this year.

    • rcleven

      Don’t think we have to go as far as to DL him but he sure needs a lot more time off. We already have a outfield who has troubles hitting the ball over the infield. Cardenas was used spell him the other day and I think it worked to point.
      Cardenas needs to see ML pitches. 1) To adjust to talent jump from AAA to ML pitching. 2) To see if he even can adjust. 3) Roster does not need to change.
      Kind of screws up power structure of the line up but when given lemons try to make lemon-aid.

  • FromFenwayPahk

    The Telander link on Wrigley is a good one. Thanks. (This kind of link is another reason why BN is my one-stop Cubs-shop.)
    Here is completely different architectural view for contrast (and its ideals remain a Chicago option, just not one I favor)–
    http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/28/arts/design/marlins-park-in-miami-baseballs-newest-stadium.html?pagewanted=all

    Half of BoSox fans were ready to wrecker-ball Fenway not long ago. Rebuilding was the right idea. I think Wrigley is in this category, too. No amount of rebuilding is going to bring back the era that Telander is nostalgic for, though. But, the vessel to hold those memories is achievable.

    • TWC

      Telander wrote a good article?  Really?  It’s not just his normal self-righteous know-it-all crap?

  • http://www.viewfromthebleachers.com Norm

    Cub fans love to love Szczur…I don’t get it.
    Of all the nationally known prospect “guru’s” out there, I think there has been ONE that think he’s anything more than a 4th outfielder. His performance to date seems to agree with that.

  • ETS

    While the shark has been beyond my expectations this year – his opponent’s BA for 0-45 is much, much lower than opponent’s BA 45+ (I think more so than the average starter). I suspect he isn’t quite to the arm strength level you’d want your starter at.

  • http://bleachernation.com lou brock lives

    The power which allows a hitter to hit HR’s is mostly generated from the hips & legs. Once your legs go – your power will decline. There are very few major league hitters who can generate the power needed to consistently hit HR’s without having a good base – legs & hips.
    Soriano has been having trouble with his wheels for the better part of the last 3 years. He is swinging that heavy bat with no power base – therefore no HR’s.
    He should be only used as a pinch hitter or should be released. Mather has 2 HR’s & is a huge upgrade on defense – Cardenas should be given the opportunity to show if he can handle ML pitching.

  • mark

    More re Szczur and his SLG. If you check Starlin Castro’s Daytona time, you’ll find that his SLG was virtually identical to Szczur’s current SLG. Nor has Castro set MLB on fire with his SLG–but is there a team that wouldn’t want him?

    Of course, there is a major difference: Castro’s numbers are coming at a younger age. Still, Szczur is still fairly young and, as Luke pointed out, his trend (including SLG) is upwards. So it’s silly to be dissing him at this point.

    OTOH, if he were at AAA striking out 45 times in 129 ABs, there would be cause for concern. Oh, except for the small sample size.

  • die hard

    Soriano may need glasses…seriously…wonder when last time had complete checkup

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